High Uinta Wilderness/Domestic Sheep

Photo Credit: Jason Christensen||||| Photo Credit: Jason Christensen||||| |||||

Status

Y2U organized a coalition of environmental groups and interested individuals to address 11 sheep grazing allotments in the High Uinta Wilderness that are in conflict with bighorn sheep.  We have met with the Regional Forester, Forest Supervisors, and other USFS staff on more than one occasion to delineate our concerns and recommendations.   This 175,000 acre area is habitat for Canada lynx, bighorn sheep, black bears, cougars and many other species. It also provides a significant water source for much of Utah. Our current work:

  • Mapping and data analysis of our past monitoring data, Forest Service monitoring data, Bighorn sheep habitat, and risk analysis data.
  • We conducted field visits to Forest Service monitoring locations in August 2016 to collect data on forage production and land capability. This information was used to determine appropriate stocking rates and forage suitability classifications in comparison to those of the agency.
  • The project was re-scoped in spring of 2016.  Our coalition submitted detailed comments. An important element of our submission is a GIS-based capability model that will analyze the pounds/acre of biomass available in these sheep-grazed allotments. This will allow us to calculate an ecologically-based stocking rate for these allotments to present to the USFS.  
  • We expect the EIS to be released within the next year. During the last weekend of September 2016 we met with the agency to present our stocking rate and forage capacity model.  The Forest Service was noncommittal. We completed data analysis and submitted a report to the Forest Service as part of our coalition comments on the DEIS.

Expected Outcome

Optimistically, the Bighorn Sheep risk analysis will result in Forest Service recommendation to close some allotments.  Our work is intended to show the impact of current stocking rates, which are far too high. We are also considering buyouts of some allotments.